Showing posts from February, 2016

the joy of repentance

Isaiah 55:1-9  Psalm 63:1-8  1 Corinthians 10:1-13  Luke 13:1-9
In case you haven’t noticed, repentance is a massive theme in the season of Lent. It can have a pretty negative reputation. We might imagine people with bad self-image, or monks whipping themselves. Repentance isn’t popular is our culture where we are constantly trying to build up our self-esteem. There is a whole industry based on “self-help” that is full of advice to make you feel better about yourself. … And now in Lent in the church we focus on repentance. We think about the ways we miss the mark. We think about the changes we should make to our lives. It all feels very negative. This is intensified by the fact that Jesus opened his ministry by calling people to repentance and that many saints throughout the centuries have defined the life of a Christian as a life of continuous repentance. That is pretty at odds with our culture.

I’ve said this before, but it’s worth saying again, that repentance isn’t just turning away f…

confidence in the midst of difficulty- Ps 27

Psalm 27
I’d like us to look at the Psalm this morning. It is a psalm of confidence in God. It is about faith in the midst of difficulty. In the Eastern Orthodox Church this psalm is often sung for baptisms. The idea is that when Jesus was baptized he was immediately brought into the wilderness to be tempted. Being baptized was being made ready for the battle that lies ahead. We like to be a bit more chipper with our baptisms, but I wonder if the Orthodox view isn’t a bit more realistic. Yes, God is with us, but that doesn’t necessarily excuse us from hardship.

The psalm begins, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (27:1). The Psalmist is asking a rhetorical question. If God is his protector and guide, then what possible reason would he have to be afraid?

That might seem a bit overly idealistic (maybe even a bit na├»ve) for those of us who have had to deal with difficulties in our lives. But, we ne…

Lent, Jesus, and the nature of temptation

Luke 4:1-13

Last Wednesday Lent began. Jesus begin his ministry with a call to repent- “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 4:17). Repentance means to change your mind, or to change direction. If you have your GPS guiding you and you make a wrong turn it will tell you how to correct your course. Your GPS will call you to repent. There were many reports about the dangers of smoking that came out and doctors began calling their patience to repent- to change their mind about being smokers. We repent by turning away from the bad, but we also repent by turning towards the good. I’ve spoken before about repenting towards the smell of popcorn when walking through the mall.

The Christian life has often been understood as a life of repentance. God gives us the gift of ‘new life’ but we often wander off the path and God calls us to repent and return to the path where we seek first the kingdom of God (Matt 6:33). There are so many other voices we have to contend with. We get me…

Transfiguration- Jesus gets to define who he is

Luke 9
Before our Gospel reading we have an important question. At the beginning of Chapter 9 Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” And they answer, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” Then Jesus personalizes it. How about you- “who do you say that I am?” … Jesus doesn’t want an objective assessment of the crowds- a statistical assessment of public opinion- as much as he wants his disciples to understand who he is. And Peter answers, “The Christ of God.”

Now we can say the right words without actually getting the right answer. If someone asks me why a person’s eyes are green, I can say, “DNA”, but that doesn’t mean I really understand what that means. There is probably a lot that is wrong in my understanding of DNA, but I can say “DNA” and get the right answer. … My wife trained to be a “molecular biologist”. I can say the words, but I really don’t understand much about what her job was. I know prett…

all you need is Love... what is it? 1 Cor 13

At the University of Lethbridge I used to meet with a group of students and teach different methods of prayer. One week I met with them and I used 1 Corinthians 13 to help us enter into prayer. First, I asked them to read the chapter and understand what it was saying. We read it out loud then sat in silence as they re-read it privately to themselves- internalizing it. Then after a few minutes I asked them to replace the word “love” with their name in versus 4-7. So where it says, “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” It then became, “[Chris] is patient; [Chris] is kind; [Chris] is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. [Chris] does not insist on [his] own way; [he] is not irritable or resentful; [he] does not rejoice in wron…